Despite all of the evidence of the associated risks, many people continue to smoke. The logic behind quitting is clear and compelling. Quitting smoking improves health and prolongs life, not only for the smoker but for those who are constantly around the smoker. Even so, quitting is very difficult. It is important to understand the psychological and physical implications of quitting smoking.
The physical addiction to nicotine is hard to overcome. Nicotine is a naturally occurring substance that is extremely addictive. It moves quickly to the brain and causes temporary feelings of relaxation and stress alleviation. The drug also improves one’s mood and elevates heart rate. Unfortunately, these positives, as with other drugs, are temporary. When the drug dissipates from the body, it immediately begins to crave another cigarette.
The body’s craving of more cigarettes takes the form of drug withdrawal. You start to crave another cigarette to overcome the symptoms of withdrawal. This begins the downward spiral towards dependency.
Withdrawal symptoms are different for every smoker. These are some of the more common symptoms:
- Feelings of sadness and depression
- Grouchiness and irritability
- Inability to think clearly and concentrate
- Restlessness and jumpiness
- Reduced heart rate
- Insatiable hunger and weight gain
There are medicines and behavior modifications that can assist you with withdrawal symptoms. Also, remember that symptoms and cravings will fade the longer the body goes without nicotine.
Many people begin smoking as a form of stress management. Stress, regardless of its causes or sources, makes people look for ways to release their feelings of tension and duress.
But the truth is that smoking leads to poor health, which is a stress causer, not a stress alleviator. A successful strategy to quit smoking must include evaluation and revaluation of stress management techniques.
Tips to Quit Smoking
- Take time to breathe. An excellent way to relieve stress is to take five to ten deep breaths. This provides you with the benefit of clean air without the pollution of nicotine.
- Taking a walk. Exercise and physical activity release healthy endorphins that improve feelings of well-being and satisfaction. Adopting a 30-minute walk provides a distraction that engages the body and mind, burns calories, and promotes a healthy heart.
- Taking the time to relax. Among other negative actions, stress creates muscle tension. Alleviate this tension by engaging in relaxation techniques like stretching, deep breathing, yoga, messages, closing your eyes, and positive visualization.
- Contact someone. Talking with family, friends, a counselor, or meeting with a support group can provide comfort and give opportunities to vent frustrations and express fear and concerns.
- Reduce caffeine intake. Caffeine acts as a stimulant that increases the heart rate and raises anxiety. Stress management works best without the use of caffeine because it creates tension, promotes insomnia, and might increase the desire to smoke.
- Protect your body. Drink plenty of water, eat healthy, and get as much sleep as possible. This will help to increase energy and reduce stress.
These are questions to consider as you quit smoking:
- Provide the ability to go out and meet people?
- Help you overcome feelings of loneliness?
- Lower your weight?
- Boost your confidence?
- Occupy your hands and give them something to keep them busy?
- Accompany a drink of coffee or alcohol?
- Seem a natural way to finish a meal?
- Give you an activity to keep you awake and engaged while driving?
Alternatives to Smoking Habits:
- Restructure social get-togethers. If you are in the habit of smoking with coworkers during smoke breaks or going out and smoking with friends, tell them you are committed to quitting smoking, and see if they will consider quitting with you. If they won’t consider quitting, and their company provides temptation to continue smoking, change schedules or spend more time with nonsmoking co-workers and friends.
- Keep your mind and body busy. Walk, read, or listen to music.
- Occupy your mouth and hands. Learn to chew gum, eat healthy snacks, use a stress ball, play putty, write, paint, or sculpt.
- After finishing a meal, leave the table and find something to do that will give pleasure and provide a healthier distraction.
- If drinking coffee causes you to crave cigarettes, alter your drinking habits. Switch coffee mugs, the times you drink, or where you drink.
- Instead of smoking in your vehicle, remove the ashtray and replace it with reminders of your non-smoking goals and motivational messages.
- Stay away from smoking areas at social gatherings. Keep indoors and keep your distance from smokers.
- Cut back on your consumption of alcohol. The lack of inhibition that takes place when you are drinking will lower your resistance to refrain from smoking. Keeping sober will help you to remember why you are quitting and keep you focused and on task.
Remember that knowing and being honest with yourself, as well as understanding why and when you smoke will help you to be able to quit.